About the Continuity of Our Consciousness

Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 550)


Some people who have survived a life-threatening crisis report an extraordinary experience. Near-death experiences (NDE) occur with increasing frequency because of improved survival rates resulting from modern techniques of resuscitation. The content of NDE and the effects on patients seem similar worldwide, across all cultures and times. The subjective nature and absence of a frame of reference for this experience lead to individual, cultural, and religious factors determining the vocabulary used to describe and interpret the experience. NDE can be defined as the reported memory of the whole of impressions during a special state of consciousness, including a number of special elements such as out-of-body experience, pleasant feelings, seeing a tunnel, a light, deceased relatives, or a life review. Many circumstances are described during which NDE are reported, such as cardiac arrest (clinical death), shock after loss of blood, traumatic brain injury or intra-cerebral haemorrhage, near-drowning or asphyxia, but also in serious diseases not immediately life-threatening. Similar experiences to near-death ones can occur during the terminal phase of illness, and are called deathbed visions. Furthermore, identical experiences, so-called “fear-death” experiences, are mainly reported after situations in which death seemed unavoidable like serious traffic or mountaineering accidents. The NDE is transformational, causing profound changes of life-insight and loss of the fear of death. An NDE seems to be a relatively regularly occurring, and to many physicians an inexplicable phenomenon and hence an ignored result of survival in a critical medical situation.


Cardiac Arrest Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Brain Death Life Review Clear Consciousness 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of CardiologyHospital RijnstateArnhemThe Netherlands

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